Photos of the Empire State Building's restored lobby

  • The Empire State Building's renovated lobby

  • The mural covers 15,000 square feet, almost a third of a football field

  • Detail of Leif Neandross's mural

  • Detail of Leif Neandross's mural

  • The 23-karat gold leaf used in the mural

  • The 34th St elevated walkway

  • A new Art Deco chandelier that was part of the original lobby design blueprint, but never constructed

  • Intricate cast glass fixture lenses from the original design above the banks of elevators

The Empire State Building's renovated lobby

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Photographs: Jolie Ruben

You don't have to don your fanny pack, roam in sidewalk-blocking groups or pay tourist prices to check out the Empire State Building's restored lobby which officially opened today. In fact, tourists are funneled away into the Fifth Avenue entrance, while the renovated 34th Street corridor becomes a hidden gem for ESB workers and New Yorkers (at least for the moment).

Saunter in to see an exact replica of Leif Neandross's gold- and aluminum-leaf Art Deco mural that has been hidden from view since the 1960s, when a plastic drop ceiling was considered a more attractive proposition. The original celestial image was unveiled in 1931 and stood as a testament to the Machine Age, with stars and planets depicted as cogs and gears.

The renovations have tried to stay true to the original design in all but one respect. Look up at the elevated walkways that bisect the 33rd and 34th Street corridors and you'll see an ornate chandelier, which was included in designs found in the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY, but never installed (turns out they cut corners in those days, too).

Pop in when you're passing by; it's free!